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'Warm & wet!' 'No! Cold & Snowy!" Farmer's Almanacs duke it out over NW winter forecast

A day it actually snowed in Seattle during winter (Photo: Archana Bhat)

SEATTLE -- Summer is eyeing the finish line on the horizon, and that means it's time to start thinking about winter. Or at least maybe the winter forecasts.

The two main farmer's almanacs sure are, as both have recently come out with their annual weather predictions of the upcoming winter.

And they couldn't disagree more...

Let's start with the "newer" Farmer's Almanac, which began publication in 1818.

Touting its "amazingly-accurate long-range forecast on a mathematical and astronomical formula developed in 1818," the Farmer's Almanac pretty much says the entire United States is in for it this winter.

"It's going to be a 'teeth-chattering' cold one, with plenty of snow," their web page says, although that forecast is primarily for parts of the United States that actually frequently have "teeth-chattering" cold winter with plenty of snow (though they do include the southeast in that forecast for this winter.)

Officially, their forecast on their map advertising their 2018-19 winter for the Pacific Northwest is generally given as "typical winter temps, wet" which... c'mon. We meteorologists get grief all the time about "partly cloudy; chance of showers." But their site notes the Almanac predicts "an unusually snowy and/or wet winter across the Pacific Northwest, Northeast and Mid-Atlantic States; in these regions, the thermometer will be hovering just above or just below the freezing mark, which means some of the precipitation may fall as either ice or rain/freezing rain."

So, get those chains on early and tell work you essentially won't be able to drive in for much of January, right?

Hold your horses, says The Old Farmer's Almanac. ("Old" because it started publication in 1792...)

"This winter, we expect to see above normal temperatures almost everywhere in the United States," says the Old Farmer's Almanac. Their exception: The Desert Southwest where they're predicting a colder-than-normal season. (Hear that, snowbirds? It might get down to 55 in Phoenix...)

Their chart does a better job of at least attempting to account for topography, giving Eastern Washington a "mild, snowy" outlook while Western Washington gets "warm, wet" (although their rain/snowy line was drawn about a millimeter too far west... Don't panic, I-5 corridor!)

"Our milder-than-normal forecast is due to a decrease in solar activity and the expected arrival of a weak El Niño, which will prevent cold air masses from lingering in the North," the Old Farmer's Almanac says which...especially the El Niño part, is a valid point.

The Old Farmer's Almanac also predicts it'll be a wet winter across much of the nation, expect for the southeast, the Midwest and southern California, which actually goes against a typical El Niño forecast.

And if you live in the Midwest? Good luck. The Old Farmer's Almanac predicts a "warm, dry" winter while the Farmer's Almanac predicts that "teeth-chattering cold winter with plenty of snow." Although honestly, for a North Dakota winter, I'd probably lean toward the latter because...it's North Dakota, in the winter.

Then again, the two almanacs disagreeing with each other isn't exactly surprising.

What do the regular weather folks think?

NOAA's long-range climate forecasts would say they would side a bit closer to the Old Farmer's Almanac of warmer winter than the Farmer's harsh winter forecast.

They give reasonable confidence of a warmer than normal winter across the northern tier of the U.S. and the southwest, with odds of a wetter winter across the south and equal chances of a wet vs dry winter across much of the north -- in deference to expected El Niño conditions.

El Niño winters have higher odds of being milder with below-normal precipitation around the Northwest -- and much of the northern states for that matter, while California and the South usually has wetter winter.

Maybe this might be a more accurate forecast (from a few years ago, but still valid...)

Honestly though, the best forecast for the Pacific Northwest this winter? Partly cloudy, chance of showers. (OK, maybe mostly cloudy...)


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